Loch Tay, Kenmore, Perthshire

Bringing folk songs back to the land

I was visiting my cousin and her husband in Dundee. They very kindly offered to take me on a road trip around their beautiful part of the world. As we passed through village and town, it was like all the Scottish harp music I’d played throughout my life was coming home. I recognised place names on signposts connected to songs and tunes I’d previously encountered only as sheet music: Dunkeld Hermitage Bridge, The Birks of Aberfeldy, Killin’s Hill of Fairy, Kinloch of Kinloch and on and on. I gave my cousins a little rendition of each from the back seat. I bet they loved it.

So when we got to Loch Tay, it was time for the Loch Tay Boat Song. Little did I realise that I was setting myself up for a fall.

I left them in the Kenmore Hotel with their coffees and slipped out for a little while for a listen. It was a calm, but chilly, early evening. I could see the boats bobbing up and down in front of me and not too far away I could see the crannog in the distance. But what could I hear? Nothing but the Loch Tay Boat Song. I could NOT get it out of my head.

I’m no stranger to having tunes inside my head. In fact, I have one playing pretty constantly, like the background score of my life’s movie. Even my breathing has a simple tune attached to it. The tunes unfold as they please reflecting how I’m feeling. I’m aware that if this is not your experience, it could sound crazy-making, but actually I find the tunes comforting. Its a bit like inner whistling. But every now and then I get an ear worm and these are not the same thing at all; an ear worm repeats the same phrase over and over again and it can even be a tune that I dislike. The easiest way to get rid of an ear worm is to replace it with another one. I tried, but no. I could not shift the damn Loch Tay Boat Song.

This got me wondering about what was going on? Sure, I was on Loch Tay, but that didn’t really explain why I couldn’t shift the tune despite my best efforts. For instance, right now I’m writing about my experience at Loch Tay, but the Loch Tay Boat Song is not in my head. I’m having to search for how the tune goes to remind myself of it.

I wonder. Was there something so right and correct about the original music that it fitted perfectly with the land? So, that when listening in this location, was I, in fact, picking up the song of the loch in the same way that the original composer of the tune had? So it wasn’t an ear worm at all? I wonder.

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